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Let the Beauty 

We Love Be 

What We Do: 

Selections from 

the Poems of 
Jelalludin Rumi 

Edited by 

Ric Amante, 

Mio Cohen & Ray Soulard, Jr. 

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Portland, O r e g o k 

Scriptor Press 

Let the Beauty 

We Love Be 

What We Do: 

Selections from 

the Poems of 
Jelalludin Rumi 

Edited by 

Ric Amante, 

Mio Cohen & Ray Soulard, Jr. 


number one 

For Ric Amante, brother, 
with love and fire. 

I was raw. 

I matured. 

Now I burn. 

Selections from the Poems of Jelalludin Rumi 

English translations © 1995 Coleman Barks 

Burning Man Books is a Special Projects Division imprint of 

Scriptor Press, 32 Newman Rd. #2, Maiden, Massachusetts, 02148 

Who Says Words With My Mouth? 

All day I think about it, then at night I say it. 

Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? 

I have no idea. 

My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, 

and I intend to end up there. 

This drunkenness began in some other tavern. 

When I get back around to that place, 

I'll be completely sober. Meanwhile, 

I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary. 

The day is coming when I fly off, 

but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice? 

Who says words with my mouth? 

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? 

I cannot stop asking. 

If I could taste one sip of an answer, 

I could break out of this prison for drunks. 

I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way. 

Whoever brought me here will have to take me home. 

This poetry. I never know what I'm going to say. 

I don't plan it. 

When I'm outside the saying of it, 

I get very quiet and rarely speak at all. 


Inside this new love, die. 

Your way begins on the other side. 

Become the sky. 

Take an axe to the prison wall. 


Walk out like someone suddenly born into color. 

Do it now. 

You're covered with thick cloud. 

Slide out the side. Die, 

and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign 

that you've died. 

Your old life was a frantic running 

from silence. 

The speechless full moon 
comes out now. 

[Today, like every other day, we wake up empty] 

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty 
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study 
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. 

Let the beauty we love be what we do. 

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. 

An Empty Garlic 

You miss the garden, 

because you want a small fig from a random tree. 

You don't meet the beautiful woman. 

You're joking with an old crone. 

It makes me want to cry how she detains you, 

stinking mouthed, with a hundred talons, 

putting her head over the roof edge to call down, 

tasteless fig, fold over fold, empty 

as a dry-rotten garlic. 

She has you tight by the belt, 

even though there's no flower and no milk 

inside her body. 

Death will open your eyes 

to what her face is: leather spine 

of a black lizard. No more advice. 

Let yourself be silently drawn 

by the stronger pull of what you really love. 

[The mystery does not get clearer by repeating the 

The mystery does not get clearer by repeating the question, 
nor is bought with going to amazing places. 

Until you've kept your eyes 

and your wanting still for fifty years, 

you don't begin to cross over from confusion. 


It's a habit of yours to walk slowly. 

You hold a grudge for years. 

With such heaviness, how can you be modest? 

With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere? 

Be wide as the air to learn a secret. 
Right now you're equal portions clay 
and water, thick mud. 

Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set. 
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God. 

You are so weak. Give up to grace. 

The ocean takes care of each wave 

till it gets to shore. 

You need more help than you know. 

You're trying to live your life in open scaffolding. 

Say Bismillah, In the name of God, 

as the priest does with a knife when he offers an animal. 

Bismillah your old self 
to find your real name. 

Constant Conversation 

Who is luckiest in this whole orchestra? The reed. 
Its mouth touches your lips to learn music. 
All reeds, sugarcane especially, think only 
of this chance. They sway in the canebrakes, 
free in the many ways they dance. 

Without you the instruments would die. 
One sits close beside you. Another takes a long kiss. 
The tambourine begs, Touch my skin so I can be myself. 
Let me feel you enter each limb bone by bone, 
that what died last night can be whole today. 

Why live some soberer way and feel you ebbing out? 

I won't do it. 

Either give me enough wine or leave me alone, 

now that I know how it is 

to be with you in a constant conversation. 

Bonfire at Midnight 

Someone Digging in the Ground 

A shout comes out of my room 

where I've been cooped up. 

After all my lust and dead living I can still live with you. 

You want me to. 

You fix and bring me food. 

You forget the way I've been. 

The ocean moves and surges in the heat 

of the middle of the day, 

in the heat of this thought I'm having. 

Why aren't all human resistances burning up with this thought? 

It's a drum and arms waving. 

It's a bonfire at midnight on the top edge of a hill, 

this meeting again with you. 

An eye is meant to see things. 

The soul is here for its own joy. 

A head has one use: for loving a true love. 

Legs: to run after. 

Love is for vanishing into the sky. The mind, 
for learning what men have done and tried to do. 
Mysteries are not to be solved. The eye goes blind 
when it only wants to see why. 

A lover is always accused of something. 
But when he finds his love, whatever was lost 
in the looking comes back completely changed. 
On the way to Mecca, many dangers: thieves, 
the blowing sand, only camel's milk to drink. 
Still each pilgrim kisses the black stone there 
with pure longing, feeling in the surface 
the taste of the lips he wants. 

This talk is like stamping new coins. They pile up, 
while the real work is done outside 
by someone digging in the ground. 

The Guest House 

This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, 

who violently sweep your house 

empty of its furniture, 

still, treat each guest honorably. 

He may be clearing you out 

for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond. 

Like This 

If anyone asks you 
how the perfect satisfaction 
of all our sexual wanting 
will look, lift your face 
and say, 

Like this. 

When someone mentions the gracefulness 
of the nightsky, climb up on the roof 
and dance and say, 

Like this? 

If anyone wants to know what "spirit" is, 
or what "God's fragrance" means, 
lean your head toward him or her. 
Keep your face there close. 

Like this. 

When someone quotes the old poetic image 
about clouds gradually uncovering the moon, 
slowly loosen knot by knot the strings 
of your robe. 

Like this? 

If anyone wonders how Jesus raised the dead, 
don't try to explain the miracle. 
Kiss me on the lips. 

Like this. Like this. 

When someone asks what it means 
to "die for love," point 


If someone asks how tall I am, frown 
and measure with your fingers the space 
between the creases on your forehead. 

This tall. 

The soul sometimes leaves the body, then returns. 
When someone doesn't believe that, 
walk back into my house. 

Like this. 

When lovers moan, 
they're telling our story. 

Like this. 

I am a sky where spirits live. 
Stare into this deepening blue, 
while the breeze says a secret. 

Like this. 

When someone asks what there is to do, 
light the candle in his hand. 

Like this. 

How did Joseph's scent come to Jacob? 


How did Jacob's sight return? 


A little wind cleans the eyes. 

Like this. 

When Shams comes back from Tabriz, 
he'll put just his head around the edge 
of the door to surprise us. 

Like this. 

Love Dogs 

One night a man was crying, 

Allah! Allah! 
His lips grew sweet with the praising, 
until a cynic said, 

"So! I have heard you 
calling out, but have you ever 
gotten any response?" 

The man had no answer to that. 

He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep. 

He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls, 
in a thick, green foliage. 

"Why did you stop praising?" 
"Because I've never heard anything back." 

"This longing 
you express is the return message." 

The grief your cry out from 
draws you toward union. 
Your pure sadness 
that wants help 
is the secret cup. 

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. 
That whining is the connection. 

There are love dogs 

no one knows the names of. 

Give your life 
to be one of them. 

Two Kinds of Intelligence 

There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired, 
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts 
from books and from what the teacher says, 
collecting information from the traditional sciences 
as well as from the new sciences. 

With such intelligence you rise in the world. 

You get ranked ahead or behind others 

in regard to your competence in retaining 

information. You stroll with this intelligence 

in and out of fields of knowledge, getting always more 

marks on your preserving tablets. 

There is another kind of tablet, one 
already completed and preserved inside you. 
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness 
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence 
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It's fluid, 
and it doesn't move from outside to inside 
through the conduits of plumbing-learning. 

This second knowing is a fountainhead 
from within you, moving out. 


There was a feast. The king 
was heartily in his cups. 

He saw a learned scholar walking by. 
"Bring him in and give him 
some of this fine wine." 

Servants rushed out and brought the man 
to the king's table, but he was not 
receptive. "I had rather drink poison! 
I have never tasted wine and never will! 
Take it away from me!" 

He kept on with these loud refusals, 
disturbing the atmosphere of the feast. 

This is how it sometimes is 
at God's table. 

Someone who has heard about ecstatic love, 
but never tasted it, disrupts the banquet. 

If there were a secret passage 

from his ear to his throat, everything 

in him would change. Initiation would occur. 

As it is, he's all fire and no light, 
all husk and no kernel. 

The king gave orders, 
do what you must!" 


This is how your invisible guide acts, 
the chess champion across from you 
that always wins. He cuffed 
the scholar's head and said, 

And, "Again!" 

The cup was drained 
and the intellectual started singing 
and telling ridiculous jokes. 

He joined the garden, snapping his fingc 
and swaying. Soon, of course, 
he had to pee. 


He went out, and there, near the latrine, 

was a beautiful woman, one of the king's harem. 

His mouth hung open. He wanted her! 
Right then, he wanted her! 
And she was not unwilling. 

They fell to, on the ground. 
You've seen a baker rolling dough. 
He kneads it gently at first, 
then more roughly. 

He pounds it on the board. 
It softly groans under his palms. 
Now he spreads it out 
and rolls it flat. 

Then he bunches it, 
and rolls it all the way out again, 
thin. Now he adds water, 
and mixes it well. 

Now salt, 

and a little more salt. 

Now he shapes it delicately 

to its final shape and slides it into the oven, 

which is already hot. 

You remember breadmaking! 

This is how your desire 

tangles with a desired one. 

And it's not just a metaphor 

for a man and a woman making love. 

Warriors in battle do this too. 
A great mutual embrace is always happening 
between the eternal and what dies, 
between essence and accident. 

The sport has different rules 
in every case, but it's basically 
the same, and remember: 

the way you make love is the way 
God will be with you. 

So these two were lost in their sexual trance. 
They did not care anymore about feasting 
or wine. Their eyes were closed like 
perfectly matching calligraphy lines. 

The king went looking for the scholar, 

and when he saw them there coupled, commented, 

"Well, as it is said, 'A good king 

must serve his subjects from his own table!'" 

There is joy, a winelike freedom 
that dissolves the mind and restores 
the spirit, and there is manly fortitude 
like the king's, a reasonableness 
that accepts the bewildered lostness. 

But meditate now on steadfastness 

and clarity, and let those be the wings 

that lift and soar through the celestial spheres. 

There's Nothing Ahead 


Lovers think they're looking for each other, 
but there's only one search: wandering 
this world is wandering that, both inside one 
transparent sky. In here 
there is no dogma and no heresy. 

The miracle of Jesus is himself, not what he said or did 

about the future. Forget the future. 

I'd worship someone who could do that. 

On the way you may want to look back, or not, 
but if you can say There's nothing ahead, 
there will be nothing there. 

Stretch your arms and take hold the cloth of your clothes 
with both hands. The cure for pain is in the pain. 
Good and bad are mixed, if you don't have both, 
you don't belong with us. 

When one of us gets lost, is not here, he must be inside us. 
There's no place like that anywhere in the world. 

I used to be shy. 
You made me sing. 

I used to refuse things at table. 
Now I shout for more wine. 

In somber dignity, I used to sit 
on my mat and pray. 

Now children run through 
and make faces at me. 

In the Arc of Your Mallet 

Don't go anywhere without me. 

Let nothing happen in the sky apart from me, 

or on the ground, in this world or that world, 

without my being in its happening. 

Vision, see nothing I don't see. 

Language, say nothing. 

The way the night knows itself with the moon, 

be that with me. Be the rose 

nearest to the thorn that I am. 

I want to feel myself in you when you taste food, 
in the arc of your mallet when you work, 
when you visit friends, when you go 
up on the roof by yourself at night. 

There's nothing worse than to walk out along the street 
without you. I don't know where I'm going. 
You're the road and the knower of roads, 
more than maps, more than love. 

Unmarked Boxes 

Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round 

in another form. The child weaned from mother's milk 

now drinks wine and honey mixed. 

God's joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box, 

from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed. 

As roses, up from ground. 

Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish, 

now a cliff covered with vines, 

now a horse being saddled. 

It hides within these, 

till one day it cracks them open. 

Part of the self leaves the body when we sleep 

and changes shape. You might say, "Last night 

I was a cypress tree, a small bed of tulips, 

a field of grapevines." Then the phantasm goes away. 

You're back in the room. 

I don't want to make anyone fearful. 

Hear what's behind what I say. 

Tatatumtum tatum tatadum. 
There's the light gold of wheat in the sun 
and the gold of bread made from that wheat. 
I have neither. I'm only talking about them, 

as a town in the desert looks up 
at stars on a clear night. 


I have lived on the lip 
of insanity, wanting to know reasons, 
knocking on a door. It opens. 
I've been knocking from the inside! 

[Real value comes with madness] 

Real value comes with madness, 
matzub below, scientist above. 

Whoever finds love 
beneath hurt and grief 

disappears into emptiness 
with a thousand new disguises. 

[Dance, when you're broken open] 

Dance, when you're broken open. 
Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. 
Dance in the middle of the fighting. 
Dance in your blood. 
Dance, when you're perfectly free.